a cute, tone-deaf walrus (elenlilta) wrote in elen_fic,
a cute, tone-deaf walrus

God Does Not Play Dice With The Universe, But I Will

Fic: God Does Not Play Dice With The Universe, But I Will
Author: elenlilta
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard
Rating: NP (no porn, sadly)
Disclaimer: Nothing recognizable is mine.
A/N: I was really stalled on my big AU fic I'm working on, so I pulled out I.Q., and after watching ten minutes of it, went oh my God, yes. And then this happened.

I love this movie so, so much, and I hope I did it justice. The writing is so sharp and adorable that I ended up using a lot more lines from it than I originally meant to. The title is one of Einstein's lines from the movie. ~4800 words.

John's finishing an engine rebuild when there's a series of tremendous bangs outside, and he looks up in time to see an Austin Healey limp into the parking lot. Before he can even move, the driver's side door flies open and a guy flings himself out of the car, swearing expressively at the car and everything else.

John wipes his hands on a nearby rag and walks out the garage door. "Anything I can help you with, sir?" he asks calmly over the guy's ranting. He looks like he's from the university, but John's never seen him around town before.

"You mean other than the fact that my car has completely stopped running?"

John just tosses the rag aside and opens the hood. The owner leans over John's shoulder, though John's pretty sure the guy has no idea what he's looking at or any signs he should be keeping an eye out for. After a moment, John sees it. "There's your problem," he says, pointing to the general area on the engine block. "You have no spark."

"Excuse me?"

John rolls his eyes. "Does it ever feel like the stroke is too short and you're getting premature ignition?"

The professor straightens up so fast he almost hits his head on the hood. "I'm sure I don't know," he sniffs. "Can you fix it?"

"I can fix it, but I have to call in an order for a distributor cap. It'll take a couple days to get here. There's a phone in the office if you need to call for a ride."

John leads the guy into the shop, pointing around the corner to the phone and picking up a work form.

"Katie? Yes, hi, it's Rodney. Look, my car broke down and now I'm stuck at…" he looks to John for a name.

"Sheppard's Automotive," John provides.

"Sheppard's Automotive – what? Yes, that's exactly why I'm calling. No, fine. Fine. I'll call a cab. I'll see you at dinner."

Rodney hangs up and looks up the number for the cab company, quickly redialing. "That was my fiancée," he explains to John while, presumably, he's waiting for someone to pick up on the other end. "She apparently has some – hello?"

John tunes out most of Rodney's – Dr. Rodney McKay, apparently, John knew he was an academic – end of the conversation, instead writing down the pertinent pieces of information he picks up.

The cab arrives right after John's finished filling out the work order for Rodney's car, and Rodney takes off like someone's lit a fire under his feet.

John's finally closing up for the day when he sees a pocket watch sitting innocently beside the phone, and he immediately knows who it belongs to. Slipping it inside his jacket, he makes a note to take it by Rodney's address the first free afternoon he gets.

The rest of John's week ends up being extremely busy, and he keeps getting distracted by the thought of seeing Rodney again. John tries to tell himself that Rodney's most likely irritating and he's engaged, but then his subconscious helpfully adds that the guy's pretty good looking, and John gets distracted all over again. As it ends up, the next Saturday finds John nervously pressing the doorbell of a home in one of the nicer areas of town.

He's peering down the street when the door opens, so it takes him a second to register who's standing in front of him. "Oh," he says intelligently. "Oh. You're – you're Albert Einstein."

"Thank you," Professor Einstein says.

John still can't quite get his head wrapped around the fact that he's standing on Albert Einstein's doorstep. "Wow. Just – wow." He's trying to think of something marginally smart-sounding to say when his train of thought is yanked back on track.

"Is there something I can help you with?"

"I'm sorry, sir. I'm John Sheppard, I own an automotive shop downtown, and I was looking for Rodney McKay, but I must have gotten the address wrong."

"No, no, Rodney is my nephew."

"He's your nephew." John's pretty sure the universe is pulling one gigantic prank on him.

"Is that a problem?"

"No. No, sir. Um, I came by to drop off something he left at my shop…" John trails off as he pulls the pocket watch out of his jacket.

"Oh. I'll see that he gets it, then. He comes by to check on me often."

John's reluctant to part with the watch, but he can't think of anything to say without sounding stupid, so he just nods and pools the watch and chain into Professor Einstein's hand.

As John's turning to leave, the front door flies open to reveal three older men crowded in the hallway behind Professor Einstein, all looking at John like he's the outcome of a major experiment.

"John, these are my colleagues…" and John loses track of the names that the professor gives him. They're all foreign and John knows that even if he did remember them, he'd mispronounce them so horribly that they wouldn't be recognizable. Hat Scientist has a ridiculous looking ball cap perched on his head, Scarf Scientist is wearing an enormous paisley scarf even though it's spring, and Scientist #3 is pretty normal looking as far as John can see.

Hat pushes to the front of the group. "John," he says. "Would you like to participate in a gravity experiment?"

John shrugs. "Sure," he replies easily, and suddenly he's being led through the house by three loud bickering scientists, and they don't stop until they're standing in front of a large pine tree of some kind.

"Please be careful," Professor Einstein says as John sets a ladder at the base of the tree and starts to climb.

"So what's Rodney like?" John asks as he reaches the lowest branches.

"Hmm. He is brilliant."

"But he is difficult at times."

"He does not enjoy the company of his colleagues and believes himself smarter than them."

"He is!"

"Yes, but he does not need to constantly remind us."

John grins. It's like being around the really smart version of the Three Stooges.

"What do you think of him, Mr. Sheppard?" someone calls up into the tree.

John pauses. "I don't know if you want to know," he yells back.

"Are you in love with him?" another person yells.

"I wouldn't go that far yet," John replies with a grin.

"But you are interested in him, no?"

"Of course he is; otherwise why would he be here?"

"To return the pocket watch!"

"In person?"

"How else would he deliver it?"

John spies his quarry; the badminton birdie is sitting far out on one of the branches, but before he can inch towards it, he has to remove a racket, a cane, and a golf club, tossing them all down to the lawn.

"We threw the racket up to get the birdie."

"We threw Godel's cane up to get the racket."

"I threw Podolsky's golf club up there to get even with him."

"We're going to throw Godel up there next."

John laughs and moves towards the birdie, and just as he puts his weight on the branch, it snaps, and a second later, he's flat on his back, staring at the tree's branches and blinking spots out of his eyes.

"That gravity – it's a killer," someone says above him as the birdie floats down from the tree, smacking John in the face.

They stick him in one of the living room chairs and one of the scientists gives him a cup of tea with a liberal splash of alcohol in it.

"So John," Professor Einstein says. "Why are you better for Rodney?"

John raises an eyebrow. "I wasn't really planning on stealing him from his fiancée."

"Please," says the one who John heard someone call Liebknect. "Katie is not right for Rodney."

"She is the Weed Woman," supplies the one with the scarf.

"She studies weeds," clarifies Number 3.

"Ja," says Einstein. "Rodney likes smart people, but weeds are not what he enjoys. It is physics. Astronomy. This is what he enjoys."

John snorts. "And I'm just an auto mechanic."

"Ah," says Professor Einstein. "So we make Rodney think you are smarter than you already are."

John leaves the house after reassuring everyone that he's fine and not concussed at least four times, promising to return later to work on the crazy (insane) plan that the professor worked up while John just sat in the living room blinking.


"He does not look like a scientist."

John's poked and prodded within an inch of his life, his clothes changed and added to and his hair mussed, and the finishing touch is, apparently, a necktie tied beneath the belt loops of his pants.

"We sit and discuss science, and have something to eat, and talk about life, and Rodney will be by later to look in on me."

"Okay," John says. "What do I do if he asks me a question?"

"You pretend to smoke a pipe," and the professor pulls a pipe out of his pocket, handing it to John, "And then say, 'Interesting concept.'"

"And then we will change the subject," Gobel says.

"He will not notice," Podolsky says, giving him another once over.

"Now he looks like a French Impressionist."

An hour later, the front door slams, and John swallows thickly. Professor Einstein winks at him, then starts discussing the theory and equations they have spread across the dining room table. John's up, and he's hoping he doesn't forget his lines.

"So we have e over c2…" the professor's saying, and John jumps in right on cue.

"It's e2, minus e2 over b," John says as Rodney walks in.

"Hi," says Rodney, letting his stack of books crash to the floor. He looks a little bewildered.

Everyone around the table greets him, then they go back to work as Rodney pulls out an empty chair and joins them.

"…minus v of x," John finishes. His palms are starting to get a little clammy. This was the stupidest idea ever, even if Einstein thought of it first.

"What's going on?" Rodney asks, craning his head to read some of the papers covering the table.

"You know John, ja? He has shown that he has quite the knack for physics."

Podolsky grabs John's neck and hauls him halfway out of his chair in what John supposes is a friendly gesture, but he feels like he's being strangled. These physicists are strong, John thinks as he tries to stay upright.

"I just pointed out a few errors in some math equations; it wasn't that much." John's always been strong in math, and he's hoping that the professor will let him drop it at that, because this could go wrong in an infinite number of ways.

"He is too modest," Professor Einstein tells Rodney. "He has figured out how to build a nuclear powered engine for spacecraft. A fusion engine."

Rodney's jaw drops open and John panics. This was not in the original plan, and now he's way in over his head and he has no idea what he's going to say when Rodney starts drilling him for information, which is going to start any second now.

"But you're a mechanic!" Rodney cries.

John frowns and Einstein jumps right in. "I was a clerk in a patent office. Newton was an insurance salesman. It does not mean anything."

Rodney frowns and is quiet for a half second. "A nuclear powered spacecraft," he says slowly. "That's brilliant. I mean, that's more than brilliant, that's genius! And it's perfect for the symposium next week!"

John's heart stops. "Symposium?" he manages.

"Yes! Can you be ready to present in five days?"

"Yes, yes, of course," Einstein replies, the traitor.

"Perfect," Rodney says. Then, turning to John: "What are you wearing?"


John spends those five days with Einstein's notes spread out across any available surface, memorizing equations as he works and spending his evenings with at the professor's house, the five of them pouring over the math with occasional input from Rodney.

The day of the symposium finds John pacing backstage, listening to the emcee welcoming the audience. He's really hoping to get some encouragement from Einstein, or anyone, but all that's offered are horrifying mental images. ("I can't do this," John tells Professor Einstein.

"Why?" asks Godel. "Because you're sick with fear and anxiety?"

"Thank you," John says.)

The four of them leave, after being no help at all, and John hears them announce his name, and, God, they've introduced him as Dr. Sheppard. He hesitantly sticks his head out around the corner and sees Rodney sitting in the second row, scribbling notes furiously. He sternly reminds himself why he's even agreed to doing this, and thinks this has got to be the stupidest thing anyone ever did just to get a date.

He manages to get to the podium and puts his notes down in front of him. The words that he's very carefully memorized start swimming in front of his eyes and he can't concentrate enough to pull them from memory. He looks back up and sees the professor and his friends giving him encouraging smiles, and behind them, Rodney's stopped writing and is watching him with expectation.

And suddenly, somehow, the words come to John.


The university throws a party after the symposium, and John's the star of the entire thing, not that he really wants to be. This was supposed to be a harmless trick, convincing Rodney that John had genius math skills, but now it's been blown completely out of proportion.

Rodney brought Katie to the symposium, so of course she's at the party as well. This would be so much easier if John didn't have to look at her. Her and her stupid weeds. What does she even do all day?

"John," Rodney's saying, "You used de Broglie's formula for the pilot wave, right?"

John glances at Professor Einstein, standing next to him and looking completely innocent. "Yeah. I couldn't have done anything without it."

"Remind me again? I can't remember; it's x equals one…"

The three scientists line up behind Rodney, feeding John the formula with hand signals. He just has to figure out where to look.

"x equals one plus w

Podolsky picks an ice cube out of a full glass of something, holding it up behind Katie's back.


Liebknecht holds out a plate of pecan pie, and Podolsky puts the ice cube on it, then quickly picks it back up to let it hover over the pie.

"…in – over. Over pi."

Rodney nods. "Hmm. Can you invert that?"

John wishes for the floor to open up and swallow him.

Professor Einstein chooses the moment to test his acting skills. He stumbles a little, knocking Katie's drink out of her hands, and clutches his chest. "Rodney," he says hoarsely. "My pills – I need my pills, but I left them at home."

Rodney's all action; he carefully wraps an arm around Einstein, taking some of his weight, and John does the same after some not-so-subtle hand gestures from Einstein.

"John, you drive," Einstein directs as they help him out of the lecture hall.

Halfway back to the house, Professor Einstein reaches into his suit jacket and pulls out a little bottle. "Oh, my pills," he says happily. "I have them here."

"We need to get you home and in bed," Rodney tells him. "Can't you drive any faster?" he asks John, and John shoots him a look.

"I'm going as fast as I can."

They make it inside with little fuss, and Professor Einstein tells Rodney he is feeling much better, but Rodney doesn't buy it.

"Take your pills, please, Uncle Albert. They'll be good for you even if you're feeling better."

"Ja," Einstein says quietly. "I think I will go to bed, though."

"I'll stay tonight, just in case."

John waits for Rodney to come back downstairs, and is debating whether or not he should go when Rodney invites him into the kitchen for a drink. Rodney spends several minutes opening cupboards aimlessly before John takes pity on him and points out the liquor cabinet, but the only thing left in there is a bottle of Schnaps.

Rodney wrinkles his nose. "Oh, no thank you. I had enough of that before I moved out."

John agrees, and they end up splitting a bottle of beer they find rolling around in the back of the refrigerator.

Rodney takes his glass out to the backyard, standing where the trees won't block his view of the sky. He looks so peaceful that John can't help but be drawn out to join him.

"My grandmother used to tell me that the stars were where woodpeckers had pecked holes in the sky," John says finally. Rodney looks at him sharply, but John continues. "She wasn't much of a scientist, I suppose. Even knowing what they are doesn't really stop you from enjoying them, though."

Rodney nods with a knowing look. "Of course, when I was growing up, my father always told me that he saw great seas of fire and nuclear furnaces. He said it was like a very violent ballet, only it was too small for any of us to see. And now you've figured it out. It's remarkable, really. I wish he could have been here to see it. The amount of power you could generate with this theory – and space; I've always wished I could go to space, see the stars close up, even though that probably wouldn't be feasible even with your amazing engine, but can you imagine?" He pauses. "Sorry. Katie hates it when I start rambling about my work."

John frowns. "No, don't apologize. God, if I had a mind like yours, I'd never stop talking."

"Uncle Albert likes you, you know. I think they all like you better than Katie."

John's quiet. He's not really sure where this is going, but Rodney will probably hit a point eventually.

"They don't think Katie's good enough for me. Uncle Albert thinks I'm settling because she's the only girl I've found so far who said yes." He sighs and stretches out on the grass, facing the stars, and John mirrors his posture. "She's got a research grant at Stanford. We're supposed to move out there after the wedding."

John swallows thickly. This was a horrible plan; he shouldn't be here, he shouldn't be doing this.

"Did you know that my uncle's trying to get us together? He thinks he's being subtle, but he never is."

"Rodney," John says, trying to think of a way to apologize and still retain a little of his dignity.

"And the thing is, I don't think I mind. I mean, I should, because obviously he's a meddling old man, and Katie and I are getting married, but I don't mind. After all, you're incredibly good-looking and a genius. What's not to like?"

John looks at Rodney out of the corner of his eye, but Rodney's entirely focused on the sky.

"The comet's coming next week," Rodney says.

"The comet?" John's a little thrown by Rodney's sudden turns of conversation.

"The comet that my father discovered. He always told me it would be his greatest legacy, and I think he was right, because that's all people remember about him."

"Do you know why a comet's tail always points away from the sun?" John asks, because he can't think of anything else to say.

"Yes," Rodney says impatiently.

"Me too," John says, thinking that was the dumbest question to ask an astrophysicist. He really just needs to stop talking altogether.

After a pause that lasts long enough for John to start dozing off, Rodney says, "Uncle Albert mentioned something about you and a motorcycle?"

John leaves his eyes closed and smiles. "Yeah. We were working on the paper a few days ago and kept hitting the wall, so we were going to take a walk and your uncle saw my bike in the driveway and asked for a ride."

"And you took him? What are you, crazy?"

John looks over at Rodney. "He loved it. He went 'wahoo.'"


"When was the last time he went 'wahoo?'"

"Well, I'm sure I don't know."

"When was the last time you went 'wahoo?'" John asks, feeling mischievous.

Rodney just frowns at him.

"Maybe someday I could take you for a ride," and John glances over in time to see Rodney blush to the roots of his hair.

"Well," Rodney says finally.

John sits up, brushing grass off his sleeves. "I really should get going. Big day and everything."

Rodney walks John to the front door, then pauses with his hand on the doorknob. "I never did thank you for returning that watch. It, um. It means a lot to me; it was my father's, and I was afraid that I would never get it back. So, thanks."

"It was no problem, Rodney. I'll see you around, yeah?"

"Yeah. Good night, and congratulations."


Things settle down over the next week; John enjoys his new schedule which consists of him taking a long lunch every now and again to visit Professor Einstein, and he's invited over about every other night for discussions about any subject that happens to be brought up. Rodney's over most of the time, and John still has almost-daily attacks of conscience.

"I really think I should tell him, Doc," John says one afternoon.


"He's falling in love with a guy that doesn't exist."

"Love is love," Einstein says, and changes the subject.

But John knows that Rodney's asked for a copy of the paper, and he's pretty sure that means that Rodney's trying to work it out for himself, and John knows the theory is inherently flawed. The four scientists tag-teamed it one night, trying to explain how the theory would always remain exactly that, but all John can remember is that it can never be conclusively proven.

He also knows that Einstein is deliberately misleading Rodney's work on the theory, and that unsettles John more than anything.

He's leaving Professor Einstein's office at the university when he runs across Rodney with the paper spread out in front of him, chewing on the end of his pencil.

"John," Rodney calls when he spots John walking out the door.

"Hey, Rodney. Making any progress?" John asks, taking a seat next to Rodney.

"Do you remember why you used that operator there?" Rodney asks, pointing to a smudged figure on his paper.

John peers at it, trying not to look like he's panicking. "It – it just came to me," he shrugs.

"Mmm, you were so lucky to find that. A stroke of genius, really. I just keep stalling right around here," he says, drawing vague loops on the paper.

"Maybe you just need to look at it differently. You know, question everything."

Rodney looks at John sharply, says, "I've, uh, I've got to go," gathers his papers and heads off across campus, leaving John very confused.


Everything comes to a head on the day that the comet's supposed to make its appearance. John's invited to the professor's house for lunch, and as he's walking up the stairs, Rodney comes out the front door like a hurricane, grabbing John's arm and dragging him behind the garage.

"You," he says, poking John's chest with his finger. "You lied to me. You and everyone else."

"How did you find out?"

"I figured it out, John, what do you think? I worked it out, I did the math, something you obviously didn't do enough of. What, did you think I was too dumb to work it out for myself? You though I would just listen to you and not question anything because you were in love with me?"

John starts to protest that last statement, but Rodney doesn't let him get more than a word out.

"No, stop. Don't start; I know how you feel about me. And until this morning, I thought I might actually be in love with you, too. I even told Katie that I wasn't ready to marry her and she's on her way to California as we speak. And then I find out that you're a lying bastard, and I realized that I threw my entire life away because of a flawed theory, you, you – mechanic."

"Yeah, Rodney. That's it! That's all I am – a mechanic. And you wouldn't have looked twice at me. Don't deny it; you like intelligence. I'm smart, Rodney, I'm just not an academic. And because of that I didn't stand a chance."

"So instead you tried to start a relationship based on a lie? How is that any better?"

"You had to know somehow that it wasn't right. I think you were just looking for an excuse to get out of a life that you never wanted in the first place. You're not stupid; you must have known that stuff like this doesn't just happen out of the blue."

Rodney backs off. "You're right. I probably did know, subconsciously, that you were no better than the backstabbing idiots I have to deal with every day. So thank you, John, for that revelation." He takes another step back and punches John right in the jaw. "Fake."


John goes to Stargazer's Field that night like he had planned, but he doesn't expect Rodney to show up at all. He lays on the grass, oddly reminiscent of the night he and Rodney spent stargazing, trying not to feel sorry for himself, because really, this was his fault to begin with. He can think of so many ways to have made the situation end better, but he can't go back in time to do any of them.

Before too long, though, he hears a car pull off the road and coast to a stop near his position. He doesn't look as the door slams and footsteps cross the grass quietly.

Then Rodney's dropping heavily to the ground next to John, and John holds his breath. He really doesn't want a repeat of this afternoon.

"So Uncle Albert may have pointed out to me this afternoon that I was being an idiot. He even used his favorite phrase," Rodney says, grinning, and John sits up to watch Rodney. "He told me I was living too much here," and Rodney points to his head, "And not enough here," pointing to his heart. "He also told me that you had a good heart and good intentions, and not to let my brain interfere with my heart. Honestly, it was like standing in the middle of a bunch of speaking greeting cards."

John smiles tightly. "Look, Rodney, I never meant for this to get so crazy. It was just supposed to be some harmless thing to get you to maybe look twice at me. And I'm sorry, for everything. I'll understand if you don't want me to be around anymore."

"Are you kidding? Katie's gone, and I'm not going to let a little thing like this stand in the way of me getting well and truly laid. If – uh, if you don't hate me."

"Rodney," John whispers, moving closer. "Do you believe in accidents?"

"No," Rodney breathes, watching John's mouth.

"Good," John says, and leans forward. Rodney's hands move to cup John's head, and John moves even closer, gripping Rodney's arms. Time slows down, and the night stills, and all John can hear is Rodney shifting in the grass before his lips brush John's, and John pulls Rodney in when he tries to back off.

"No, wait, John," Rodney gasps, shoving John backwards and sending him sprawling across the grass.

"Rodney, what – " John asks, bewildered, until he sees Rodney's face turned up, watching the comet streak across the sky, his eyes bright and reflecting the stars.

After a brief moment, Rodney turns, and pushes John to lay back on the grass with the stars in his eyes. Rodney leans down and kisses John again, and John deepens the kiss almost as soon as it begins. After a minute of making out, John slides his hand down Rodney's side, but before he can get to Rodney's fly, his hand is intercepted, and Rodney pulls back.

"Stop it. I am not having sex with you in a field in front of my father's comet, so stop it right now."

"Any reservations against doing it at home?"

"No, no, home's good," Rodney says with a grin.

They pull apart briefly to watch the comet a little longer. Rodney leans into John's shoulder, and John slips his fingers under Rodney's waistband. Eventually, Rodney's satisfied with stargazing and turns back to John, kissing him fiercely. John gives as good as he's got, and they make out endlessly, the image of the comet and stars burned into John's eyelids, because reaching for the stars is what got him Rodney.

"Wahoo," Rodney says, smiling against John's mouth.

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Tags: mckay/sheppard, stargate atlantis

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    Round-up post for all externally-posted stories. No Words To Define (Teyla gen) for the Wordless challenge at sga_flashfic Bert &…

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    For cataloguing's sake: comment fics written for sheafrotherdon's challenges. from here Rodney's always talked with his hands. It…